As you may be aware, solar panel power plant development in New Jersey has the strong support of conservationists and the Christie administration, to the extent that substantial subsidies/incentives are provided.
In our state government’s enthusiasm to support the advancement of alternative energy sources they included the designation of “inherently beneficial use” for solar and wind energy facilities, which in a zoning variance application provides the developer a leg up in seeking approval for a use zoning variance application.
Many, who support alternative energy sources, agree with solar panel deployment on roofs in rural low-density residential zones, on roofs and carports in high-density residential zones and all options in industrial/commercial zones.
Said another way, solar energy development on landfills, industrial districts, rooftops and parking lots are appropriate, but its use on agricultural land and open space is counterproductive. The State’s Energy Master Plan seeks to protect and preserve agricultural and open space in the area.
However, use of solar panels to cover over farmland and open space, including forest removal space, is not in the interests of environmental and conservation minded people and organizations that exist to preserve and protect our environment and all who depend on them. There is no need to invade prime farmland, environmentally critical areas, historic districts, parks, and wildlife habitats to meet our statewide planning objectives for renewable energy.
Assembly Bill No. 3218 seeks to correct part of the problem by removing the “inherently beneficial use” designation for solar and wind energy facilities proposed for farmland and open space deployment. This bill is a step in the right direction to better protect and preserve our farmland and open space, as Somerset Hills communities are committed to do.
Your active and strong support for the adoption of A3218 is sought and will be appreciated, as will the support of our Somerset Hills elected officials and all those who reside and enjoy the beauty and benefits of our farmlands and open spaces.
Joseph H. Metelski
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